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Red Card: Making the Cut

Photo by: Jessica Mouton

Photo by: Jessica Mouton

Photo by: Jessica Mouton

Red Card: Making the Cut

March 27, 2018

Now that the hype of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in South Korea has cooled down, things will begin to heat back up as soccer fans and players all over the globe prepare for the World Cup, which is set to be hosted in Russia this summer.

While both the Olympic Games and the World Cup are sporting events that give players and spectators the opportunity to participate from all over the world, the United States of America will be left to strictly spectating from the sidelines this summer, as the United States Men’s National Team did not qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

The U.S. Men’s National team, which is a part of The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), failed to qualify after losing to Trinidad and Tobago 2-1 back in October.

Even though the United States is over 1,000 times bigger than Trinidad and Tobago, and even though Trinidad and Tobago’s national ranking at the time was 99th in the world, the U.S. didn’t earn their ticket to the big dance, and the reaction among Americans was not the prettiest or the proudest.

After what is now referred to by many as one of the most significant failures in American soccer history, national coach Bruce Arena took responsibility for the loss in an interview with ESPN after the game. “We failed on the day. No excuses,” Arena said. “We failed today. We should have walked off this field with at least a point.”

While Americans were beyond disappointed with the result, some of the best teams in national soccer also failed to qualify for the World Cup. Some of these teams who fell short include Algeria, Chile, Holland, Cameroon and Ghana alongside the U.S.

Although feelings of disappointment and concern for soccer in America followed the news of the USMNT not qualifying for the World Cup, the result also opened the door for another conversation about soccer in our country.

Even though some people took to social media to complain about the result of the men’s team, others used social media to share a more positive sentiment; while the men’s team failed to qualify for the first time since 1986, the United States Women’s National Team is a three-time champion.

The real question that remains is whether or not there is a problem with the growth of soccer in our country, or whether or not the men’s team just has some work to do. Why is there so much attention being drawn to the fact that the men’s team did not qualify for the world cup when fans have many accomplishments to celebrate on both the men’s and women’s side?

Organized sports serve as fun competition for both players and spectators, but unfortunately soccer is also a political beast of an industry. While the World Cup is a time for competition, celebration and unity, the World Cup also reminds me of the division and politics that come along with it, and any other organized sport.

This time last year, members of the USWNT petitioned the federal government because they were being paid less than their male counterparts. Their complaints included examples of times where players on the women’s team were paid significantly less than members of the men’s team for doing the same things; from sponsorship appearances to how much they were paid per-game.

This is the nature of the beast that is not only present in U.S. soccer, but in many other organized sports. While it might be easy to argue whether or not men’s sports are bigger than women’s sports, it is more difficult to argue which one is better than the other.

What we can celebrate as this summer’s World Cup approaches is the fact that there’s no denying soccer has grown tremendously in America in recent years. Since 2007, the value of Major League Soccer teams has grown over nine times, the number of professional soccer teams has doubled to 70 and there are now 149 youth clubs in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, compared to the 64 in their initial campaign.

With this being said, we have a choice to make as the World Cup nears. We can either let not qualifying for the World Cup completely taint our view of soccer in our country, or we can appreciate the progress that has been made so far while being able to watch and enjoy some of the best soccer in the world.

Sports generally have the power to both divide and unite. How we choose to appreciate sports generally say more about us as people than it does about the sports themselves, and when it comes to the World Cup, it’s about so much more than just one team; it’s about soccer worldwide.

Despite one extremely bitter loss that prevented the U.S. from making their way to Russia to matchup against the best players in the world, the USMNT will have still have their shot at redemption in four years where they will hopefully make the cut.

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